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Ten Years on From 7/7, I Remain Proud of London's Fierce Display of Unity and Strength on That Dark Day

07/07/2015 11:05 BST | Updated 07/07/2016 10:59 BST

To mark the 10 year anniversary of the London 7/7 terrorist attacks, HuffPost UK is running Beyond The Bombings, a special series of interviews, blogs, in-depth features and exclusive research reflecting on how Britain has changed since.

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The morning of 7 July 2005 was one of those rare moments when time seems to slow down. Like millions of others, I will never forget where I was: on the treadmill in a gym just across the river from the Houses of Parliament, getting in an early morning workout before the working day began.

It was a beautiful, sunny summer morning as I crossed Westminster Bridge to my office. The day before, London had been awarded the 2012 Olympics and, as culture minister, I had led the celebrations in Trafalgar Square. Like every Londoner, I was in a mood to celebrate. I had, though, a feeling that something was wrong - a sense of discomfort that I couldn't place but couldn't shift. Although I walked past Westminster station and heard murmurs of a power surge on the Tube, it didn't seem like anything to worry about. Nor did the fact that my phone had no signal seem significant.

It was only when I turned on the television in my office to see the images now etched on my mind that reality hit: a bus torn apart a few streets away from where I went to university, smoke and passengers pouring out of the Tube stations I've used all my life, helicopter footage of terrified crowds gathering just a few miles away. Ten years on, I still vividly remember the chaos and confusion, the fear and uncertainty, the throngs of people waiting for news, the sirens, and the realisation, quickly reached, that this city - my city - was under attack.

In these situations shock quickly turns to concern for loved ones. I knew my family was safe: the kids at school and my wife in her studio close to our home. But thoughts then spread to others: an office intern was missing, causing much anxiety until later that afternoon when we received a text to say she was OK.

Still, though, the feeling gnawed at me - a deep discomfort that refused to go away as I went about my ministerial duties that day. It was only the next morning that I understood who that feeling had been for, when I received news that one of my best friends from school, James Adams, had been killed in the bombings. James and I had become friends as young boys, driven together after being picked on by our peers: I was the only black boy in the school, and James had a bad stammer. We'd shared a bunk bed in the dormitory, sung together in the Cathedral choir, sat together at the back of the class in Maths and French and messaged around as all kids do. Every year on this day, and most days in between, I remember a life taken away far too soon.

The shock of 7/7 was deepened by the fact that the terrorists had come from amongst our own communities. They had attended our schools, worked in our offices, lived as our neighbours. Germaine Lindsey, the bomber who killed James, did not look like Osama bin Laden or Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - he looked like me. Black Caribbean and only a few years younger than James and I, this was not a seasoned terrorist imported from a far-off land but a killer manufactured in our midst. As I remember James, I think too about his murderer and wonder what grossly warped mindset could have led him to press his detonator on a crowded Piccadilly Line train that morning.

7/7 will always be a deep scar in London's history. Fifty-six people were killed that day, and many more injured. The lives lost, and those forever changed, cannot and will not ever be forgotten. This year, as every year, we remember them in the recognition that it could so easily have been us, our partners, our children, our friends. We remember, too, in the knowledge that these events are not a thing of the past. The killings in Tunisia last month bring the emotion flooding back - the anger, the fear, the despair at such needless loss of life. Wherever these atrocities are carried out, whether in Baghdad, Bali, Boston or Sousse, there are families, just like James', whose lives are changed forever.

While many of injuries of 7/7 were physical, many more were psychological, and more still were communal. The tensions, the anger and the sense of fear that followed the bombings all threatened the unity and diversity of our city. But the threat never materialised: London responded with a fierce display of unity and strength that made me prouder of my city than I had ever been before.

London's response to being attacked wasn't to give in to the hate or division that infected the attackers, but to unite against it - to join together in defiance and solidarity as Londoners from all races, religions, boroughs, backgrounds. From the rubble of the bombings emerged a new awareness of our shared identity and a pride in being Londoners than trumps whatever heartache we endure.

In the days after 7/7, London showed it's unity, but also it's resilience. Just as it has always done when faced with challenges, from the Great Fire to the Blitz to IRA bombings and now the threat of global terrorism, London carried on. The next day, millions of Londoners got back on the Tube and went to work, took our children to school and went about our daily business. Our city's great resilience was there for the world to see.

Ten years on, our city hasn't changed. It stands more successful, diverse, dynamic, thriving, tolerant, open, compassionate and united than ever before. Londoners congregate in Golders Green to stand together against neo-Nazi marches. Muslims break the Ramadan fast in synagogues with their Jewish neighbours. The Notting Hill Carnival and Pride celebrations are attended by millions of Londoners. Parties for Diwali and Chinese New Year take place across the city, including people of all faiths and none. People still come from all over the country and all over the world to start new lives as Londoners.

As we reflect, ten years on, on a dark day in London's history, we remember our city's proud history of dealing with whatever is thrown at it and look forward, together, to doing the same with the current challenges we face and those that are bound to confront us in the years ahead. For London is, at its very best, a place of optimism, of hope and of an age-old determination to build a future that is brighter than the past.

David Lammy is the Labour MP for Tottenham, and is seeking nomination to be Labour's London Mayoral candidate in 2016

How was Britain impacted by the 7/7 bombings? Join the @HuffPostUK conversation on Twitter with #BeyondTheBombings